My first article for Pro Football Focus took a look at how the website’s unique grading system compared to fantasy points earned by other IDP’s. I always had gripes with formats that blindly reward the interchangeable tackling machines across the league, so I sought out to find just what exactly was being rewarded through those formats.
Using the Pro Football Focus grades as a base, I found it not surprising at all that many players with a consistently high number of tackles did not necessarily indicate a high level of play. In some cases, abysmal play was being rewarded with fantasy points.
However, with the implementation of our own Jeff Ratcliffe and Ross Miles’ IDP scoring system, which more so values players who induce turnovers, sacks and tackles for loss, the players started to become more appropriately rewarded. That research, however, was based on the season as a whole and not on a game-by-game basis. Now, I aim to look at just that.
So for this series, what I plan on doing is comparing the grades of the top 20 fantasy games for each scoring system, separated by position. First, I took a look at 4-3 defensive ends. But before I delve into that I’ll remind you of the scoring settings I am comparing.
|Standard IDP Scoring||PFF Scoring|
|Tackles: 1 point||Tackles: 1.5 Points|
|Assisted Tackles: .5 points||Assisted tackles – .5 points|
|Sacks: 2 points||Sacks – 4 points|
|Forced Fumbles: 2 points||Forced Fumbles: 4 points|
|Fumble Recoveries: 2 points||Fumble Recoveries: 2 points|
|Interceptions: 3 points||Interceptions: 6 points|
|Tackles for Loss: 1.5 points||Tackles for Loss: 2 points|
|Passes Defensed: 1 points||Passes Defensed: 1.5 points|
|Blocks: 2 points||Blocks: 8 points|
|Safeties: 2 points||Safeties: 10 points|
With defensive ends in a 4-3, a lot of the same players show up in both rankings systems, but how those games are quantified are significantly different as well as where each player ranks. First, let’s examine the top-20 single-game fantasy outputs logged over the course of the season based on the PFF scoring settings.
|Rank||Player||Team||Week||PFF Fantasy Points||PFF Grade|
A lot of really good games were had not just on a fantasy level, but on a grading level. What’s especially interesting to note is that Jason Pierre-Paul had the granddaddy of all fantasy games last season for IDP’s, yet his grade of +1.7 was the third lowest among the top 20 fantasy performances. His best game of the season from a grading perspective was Week 13 versus Green Bay where he earned an off-the-charts grade of +11.6. However, it was not very fantasy-friendly due to him logging zero sacks and just three total tackles during that contest. High individual-game grades had by Terrell Suggs, Jared Allen, John Abraham and Da’Quan Bowers correlated strongly to a high fantasy point output among several others. Overall, the average individual grade for the players in the chart above is a very respectable +3.745.
But now, things start to get interesting. Let’s have a look at the top 20 games in a standard scoring format.
|Rank||Player||Team||Week||Standard Fantasy Points||PFF Grade|
Much different story here, especially toward the bottom of the ranks. There is a much greater range in grades this time around, with the lowest being Kroy Biermann’s -3.1 and the highest being Michael Bennett’s ridiculous +11.6 game. Trent Cole took one spot of the top 20 in the PFF format, but especially catches an eye in the standard format as well with his monster +10.8 game that he posted in Week 2.
But while there’s a larger range in grades, there is a smaller range in fantasy points. Just 6.5 points separate the 20th best game from the best one, which contrasts greatly from the 18 points that separate first and 20th for the PFF format. The wider range in scoring in the PFF format plays a role in this, but its appropriate. There should be a significant difference between the best fantasy output and the 20th-best fantasy output.
Perhaps most interesting of all is that the average grade for a top 20 player in a standard tackle-heavy format is over half a point higher than the average grade for a top 20 player in the PFF format. The standard tackle-heavy players average a grade of +4.401. This is almost solely the doing of Cole and Bennett’s huge games, which oddly enough, place them right on the bubble of the top fantasy performances. If they were taken out of the equation, the average grade would be +3.1.
Here is a graph of how they compare:
As a whole, the data is similar because there is some overlap regarding players who qualify for both lists. But where there is no overlap, standard scoring format appears to reward players with higher overall PFF grades in this sample.
It would be treading on dangerous ground if you were to make a generalization for all of fantasy scoring based on this sample size, but it is a trend that is worth keeping note of. Analyses of other positions will give a better idea of which system does a better job of mirroring on-field performances on a game-by-game basis. I’ll continue the theme of edge rushers in my next piece, which will examine how 3-4 outside linebackers fared in each setting.